In March we began the two day journey to Yellowknife from Seattle.
There were only three more weeks of winter and the trip really couldn’t be put off any longer.
Yellowknife wasn’t the goal, it is just the frontier of civilization in that part of the world and the last stop for a caribou burger before the 252 mile north into the arctic. The Contwoyto winter road, aka Ice Road, accesses several diamond mines. The goal was to reach Jericho diamond mine in Nunavut. The significance being that this is the only road that enters Nunavut from the rest of Canada.
I joined Team Panamera on this adventure. Learn more about Team Panamera at their website. Together we were 5 people, a Honda CRZ and a BMW M5.
Outside of Grande Cache, Alberta, the Honda CRZ took a rock to the windshield thrown up by a passing truck, and poking a hole in it. Unsure of how this would impact the rest of the trip and having limited time to solve this problem, we chose to continue on and keep an eye on the windshield. The alternative would have been to drive 180 miles to Edmonton and put an extra half day in our trip.
After 190 miles or driving the Contwoyto ice road we learned that we could not reach our destination in Nunavut because the road hadn’t been built that year past Ekatie Diamond Mine. Ekatie was the end of the road at waiting for us was a mine security that was not very thrilled with our presence.
Security confirmed that Ekati was indeed the end of the road. They also took our passports, questioned us on why and how we got there. Apparently “we drove” was a not what they were expecting. They said we were trespassing and that they were going to confiscate our vehicles. Then they said the RCMP would be waiting for us in Yellowknife… our presence was chaos.
My speculation on why they were in such disbelief is that all the personnel at the mine fly in. They know they’re hundreds of miles from the nearest civilization and the idea of getting there by mere vehicles (a Honda CRZ and a BMW M5 nonetheless) was just insane. And it was insane, but planned and calculated insanity.
The Trip Back
Ultimately they sent us on our way with an escort about a third of the way back towards Yellowknife. One of the security guards wanted a picture with us and emailed us later about how inspiring we were for him to go traveling. Another guard offered us the “employee rate” on diamonds if we contact him. It ended well.
However, it was getting late and the temperatures were going from 15 degrees F to 0 and we needed fuel. Team Panamera planned for this and we refueled with fuel we brought with us. It was dark, stinky, very cold, we were very tired, and it wasn’t fun. But the plan worked. and we got to the midway point of the road where there is a truck stop. Yeah, a truck stop to service the 10s of thousands of trucks that drive this road every winter supplying Ekati and other diamond mines which is the sole purpose of this ice road. We were invited to pitch tents and stay the night in the parking lot. Tired and cold we struggle to make a comfortable abode.
Then a magical thing happened. The sky began to dance with the aurora borealis and all our tired and crankiness lifted.
When we pulled into Yellowknife there was no RCMP waiting for us and after a well needed night of warm rest we hit the road back to Seattle and picked up the Everett Silvertips games in Alberta on FM.
We did not make it to Nunavut as the road no longer goes that far. However the experience of the ice road and extreme northern conditions was well worth the experience.
Check out Team Panamera’s website for more information on them and their trips.